By Kathleen Gilbert

BRAINTREE, Massachusetts, June 11, 2009 ( – The Catholic Archdiocese of Boston and its hospitals have responded to the controversy surrounding its joint participation in abortion-covering health care, insisting that the hospitals will remain faithful to Catholic moral teaching, and will not change their protocol concerning those seeking abortion. However, the American Life League says that it is still opposed to the arrangement, saying the explanation from the Archdiocese and its hospitals is “absolutely not” acceptable.

Archdiocesan communications director Terence Donilon sent a press release late Wednesday that affirmed Caritas Christi hospitals are in “active discussions with Celtic Group and CeltiCare with a view to making acceptable modifications to their arrangement.”

Caritas Christi and the Boston Archdiocese have drawn ire in recent weeks from Catholic groups after the hospital entered and won a joint bid to manage Massachusetts' subsidized health program effective July 1. The program, as per state requirements, covers abortion, contraception, and sterilization.

The release included a statement from Boston's Cardinal Sean O'Malley, who said: “it has always been clear to me that Caritas Christi has been consistently faithful in its commitment to comply with Catholic moral teaching.” 

“In any revised agreement among Celtic Group, CeltiCare and Caritas Christi, under no circumstances will Caritas either perform procedures prohibited by the Catholic Bishops' Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services or refer any patient to other providers who perform or procure such procedures.

“Ministry to the poor and those in need, as with care for the unborn, are central tenets of the Ethical and Religios Directives for Catholic Health Care Services and at the very heart of Catholicism.”

O'Malley had last commented on the controversy when news of it first broke in early March, saying in a similar statement that the hospitals “will not be engaged in any procedures nor draw any benefits from any relationship which violate the Church’s moral teaching as found in the Ethical and Religious Directives.”

Also contained in the release is a statement by Caritas Christi president Ralph de la Torre, who stated that a patient seeking procedures contrary to Catholic teaching will be told by the Catholic hospitals that “the hospital does not perform them” and that “the patient must turn to his or her insurer for further guidance.” 

“This, in fact, is the practice currently in place in the Caritas system as we work with other insurance companies under state laws that mandate access to procedures not provided within the Caritas system,” said Torre. ”It is the path that Caritas has always followed and will follow in its engagement with CeltiCare.”

Torre's statement coincides with that of Caritas Christi spokeswoman Teresa Prego, who told LSN Wednesday that the referral arrangement is “no different than what we do currently.”

CeltiCare explained to LSN that clients seeking abortion or “family planning” services at one of the Caritas hospitals would be referred to Celticare's 24/7 call center, which would in turn direct patients to facilities providing the services.

The American Life League, who has led the charge against the arrangement, told today that the Archdiocese's explanation was “absolutely not” acceptable.

“I find it extremely tragic that the Cardinal cannot stand up and simply say that it's unacceptable under any circumstance to enter into any kind of business relationship with a company that's involved in sterilization, contraception, and abortion,” said American Life League president Judie Brown. ”I don't understand what's going on.”

“I think at the end of the day this is about money,” she continued. ”Caritas Christi has been in financial trouble for a long time, and the Cardinal is trying to massage the rules in order to allow this to go forward, and I think we are succumbing to the world when the Church does things like this, and it's bad.”

See related coverage:

Catholics Up in Arms over Boston Catholic Hospitals Abortion Coverage, Archdiocese Now Says Matter “Under Review”


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